Belmont Stakes 2021: Top Contenders and Unheralded Horses in Lineup Field

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJune 1, 2021

John Velazquez riding Medina Spirit leads Florent Geroux on Mandaloun, Flavien Prat riding Hot Rod Charlie and Luis Saez on Essential Quality to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The 2021 Belmont Stakes field is littered with horses that competed in the first two Triple Crown races. 

Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer and Kentucky Derby pre-race favorite Essential Quality are among the horses set to run on Saturday at Belmont Park. 

Nine horses are expected to line up in the starting gate. Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie, who took third at Churchill Downs, should top the odds chart by post time. 

Although the Triple Crown is no longer up for grabs, the Belmont Stakes serves an important purpose for the three-year-old horses not only to try to win a prestigious race, but also to set them up for a strong run in the fall. 


Top Contenders

Essential Quality

Essential Quality was pegged as one of the Triple Crown favorites prior to the Kentucky Derby. 

Medina Spirit won that race, and Essential Quality finished fourth and did not compete in the Preakness Stakes. 

Even though he did not win at Churchill Downs, Essential Quality should be viewed as a top candidate to win the Belmont. 

Essential Quality reeled off five wins in a row prior to the first leg of the Triple Crown. He beat a handful of Triple Crown participants in those races, including Rombauer in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 3. 

Since the Belmont has a smaller field, Essential Quality could take over the race in an easier fashion compared to dealing with a 20-horse free-for-all at the Kentucky Derby.



Three weeks ago, Rombauer was not considered a favorite to win a Triple Crown race. 

Rombauer should now be one of the most talked-about horses because of his surprise triumph at the Preakness Stakes. 

Rombauer does not have a terrible track record, as he won two of his last three races and landed in third behind Essential Quality in April. 

His three results in 2021 are much better than the fifth- and sixth-place finishes he earned at the back end of 2020. His fifth-place mark came at the Breeders' Cup juvenile. 

The improvement in results over the last few months is a promising sign for Rombauer's prospects at the Belmont and for the rest of the season.

He may not be favored against Essential Quality, but he could produce a strong race that gets him close to the lead. 


Unheralded Horses

Known Agenda

Known Agenda should fly under the radar in the Belmont buildup.

The Todd Pletcher horse earned a disappointing ninth-place finish at the Kentucky Derby, which came five weeks after a triumph at the Florida Derby. 

Known Agenda has three victories in his career, but he also placed third, fifth and ninth in between those victories. 

The inconsistencies on his resume could lead people to pick against Known Agenda to win the Belmont, but he could be worth trusting since he is a Pletcher horse. 

Pletcher has a strong record in New York and won the Belmont in 2013 with Palace Malice and in 2017 with Tapwrit. 



Bourbonic is one of three Pletcher-trained horses entered into the Belmont. 

Just like Known Agenda, Bourbonic will not come into the race with a ton of notoriety because of his 13th-place finish at the Kentucky Derby.

Bourbonic won at the Wood Memorial on April 3, and he took first in a few races prior to that, so he does have the potential to lead the pack to the finish line. 

Bourbonic will not be favored to win, but he could pull off a surprise run to first similar to what Rombauer produced at the Preakness Stakes. 

If that occurs, the Triple Crown season could be finished off with two long-shot winners.